This Week in Lincoln County – July 17, 2018

Economic Development is always a hot topic, particularly during periods of growth like we are currently experiencing. This week we want to hit on just a few of the “measuring sticks” used to assess performance in the development arena.
• The first measurement of economic growth that we will consider is median household income (MHI). According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERC), in 2016 Lincoln County was ranked #10 in the sate of Missouri with an MHI of $56,833, which places us above other notable counties such as Boone (Columbia), Greene (Springfield), and Franklin (Washington).
• Another method of gauging economic development success is the growth in the commercial tax base. Lincoln County hired its first full-time Economic Development Director in September 2013, and since then the value of the commercial tax base has increased from $78,895,745 in 2013 to $95,931,641 in 2017; a growth rate of 21.6%. Not a bad 5-year run, but the expectations are even higher moving forward.
• Yet another measurement of the performance of economic development efforts is capital investment and job creation. If we just focus on the 5-year period since we went “all in” on economic development and narrow our focus to only the projects that have participated in the county’s Enhanced Enterprise Zone (EEZ), a tax incentive program that encourages new or expanded business facilities and job creation, since 2013, the numbers are still impressive. With a total Capital Investment of $37,548,370.28 and the creation of 796 jobs, the results are favorable from this perspective as well.
• To tie all of this together, let’s keep our focus on just the EEZ activity since 2013 to determine how much return the taxpayers are getting for an investment in a $150,000 annual Economic Development budget. Using the County’s average wage of $17.93/hour as determined by the State Department of Economic Development, the 796 jobs equate to an annual income of $29,686,342. This income coupled with an average annual capital investment of $7,509,674 created a grand total of $37,196,016 added to the economy in 2017.…just from the efforts relative to the EEZ. Realistically speaking, we know that no single entity or individual can lay claim to all of these results, but let’s give Larry Tucker and his staff credit for a conservative 1% of these results or income of $371,960 annually versus an annual expenditure of $150,000. Regardless of the investment, that’s not a bad return at all.
• If we were to factor in the economic benefits resulting from all of our Economic Development efforts it would be even more apparent that the County is experiencing strong growth far and above our EEZ efforts and taxpayers are truly getting “bang” for their buck through Economic Development.
• For a more in depth look into Economic Development, we encourage everyone to stop by the 3rd floor of the old Courthouse and visit with Larry Tucker and his assistant Julie Rodgers.

That’s all we have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

The Commissioners

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This Week in Lincoln County – July 10, 2018

This and all previous weekly reports are available on the County website at www.lcmo.us. Simply click on the “News” tab to catch up on what has been happening in Lincoln County from the Commission’s perspective.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• The Commission met with Sheriff Cottle and approved the first, hopefully, of many deposits pursuant to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Sheriff and the Commission. This MOU prescribes a long-term approach to bolstering the County’s financial footing through systematic deposits of surplus Federal prisoner revenues into Law Enforcement reserves, the Jail Emergency Fund, and the Retirement Investment fund. Saving for a “rainy day” is always important, especially during periods of strong revenues. Past history tells us that the economy will eventually correct itself, and through a cooperative effort with Sheriff Cottle we are prepared. The Commission’s next step is to apply this systematic savings approach to Road and Bridge revenues to maintain reserves and continue to build an investment fund which will allow the County to cooperatively work with other entities such as MODOT and local cities on cost-share projects. Until MODOT solves its funding woes, it will be increasingly important for cities and counties to work jointly on projects such as outer roads on Highway 61 and new overpasses along that corridor.
• Commercial growth continues, especially north of Troy, and residential construction is widespread at the moment. With this growth spurring the economy, job opportunities abound and our Road and Bridge Department is no exception. We are currently looking to add to our team with entry-level positions and drivers with a Class B CDL with air brakes. Call Jean at (636)528-7112 or stop by the office at 219 Highway H in Troy.
• Transitioning to 1st class county status continues to be a topic of discussion, particularly the requirement set forth in RSMo 137.556 wherein the County will transfer 25% of the Road and Bridge property tax levied within municipal limits to those municipalities for the repair of streets, bridges, sidewalks, etc. This transfer will result in a modest decrease in property tax revenue for the County; however, the net result will be positive for everyone as not only will the roads be in better shape but the local economy will also do well with construction dollars flowing back into the community through local vendors and county residents who work for our outside contractors. Overall, this situation is a win for the community.

That’s all we have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

The Commissioners

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This Week in Lincoln County – July 3, 2018

Lincoln County, particularly the Troy area, mourns the loss of Betty Hunter and Bob Dunard. Community service is an activity that brings few material rewards, but these two individuals selflessly served their community for many years and will be missed.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• The original courthouse building on Main St. dates back to 1870, and in conjunction with our Bicentennial celebration for the County this year, we are making some improvements to this beautiful old structure. Please be forewarned that the front of the building will be a “work in progress” for several months leading up to the celebration in December. In addition to making repairs to the original cast iron columns, we are also working on the soffits and the cupola. The highlight of the cupola work is the removal of the vinyl siding, which will be replaced with approved material to create a more historically accurate look. Please make plans to come by in December to see all of the improvements.
• Some weeks ago we discussed the conversion of gravel roads to a hard surface, which included a list of the roads to be converted. That process is going full throttle at the moment, and everything is moving forward as planned. We were in fact able to get a 1.25-mile section of Fairview Church Rd. prepped and ready, so it has been added to the list and will be done this year as well. Asphalt is a MESSY product, but the mess is short-lived in comparison to the limestone dust that plagues gravel roads during the dry months year after year. Our plan is to repeat this process every year through 2022 at which point more than half of County maintained roads will have an asphalt surface. In 2022 the Commission will have to assess the situation, but we see no reason why this process cannot continue into the future. The funding for these projects comes from money SAVED for this purpose, over and above our reserve balances and maintenance program.
• As we move into the second half of our fiscal year, revenues are right on pace for the most part. After a slow start, sales taxes have rebounded and are only 2.5% off last year’s pace and closing the gap slowly but surely. Elected officials and department heads are doing a good job in keeping expenditures at and, in most cases, under budget. It is this commitment to fiscal responsibility that has enabled the County to take care of business and continue to maintain a healthy reserve balance. While the reserves are strong, there is always room for improvement, and we continue to look for ways to save money and bolster our financial foundation.

That’s all we have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

The Commissioners

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This Week in Lincoln County – June 26, 2018

In the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? one of the characters hears thunder in the distance and simply says, “Sweet summer rain.” I am currently splitting time between the keyboard at the kitchen table and the deck, where I am hoping to enjoy some of that “sweet summer rain” instead of a violent monsoon style rain.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• Preparations for the hard surfacing of roads is in full swing and the priming phase will begin later this week as the aforementioned rain allows. For the next several weeks, the County will see a noticeable increase in construction traffic relative to this operation. I want to again remind folks to take note of signage and flaggers while also paying particular attention to posted speed limits in construction zones. In addition to the immediate savings we will recognize by reducing our gravel expenses, the conversion of gravel roads to a hard surface will eventually allow us to eliminate at least one grader territory. At about $275,000 a pop to purchase a new motor grader, the long-term savings will be significant as well.
• The Commission continues to explore the possibility of re-classification from 2nd to 1st class. The statutory requirements are numerous, and while the change is inevitable, we want to make sure that we are fully prepared and fully aware of all of the changes that accompany the transition before we make the decision. One particular facet of the change relates to the disbursal of Road and Bridge Property Tax and municipalities. Under 1st class statutes, 25% of the tax collected within corporate limits will be disbursed to the municipality for the maintenance of roads within those limits. While this means a decrease in the funds available to the County, I see this as a positive change overall, as it will give the municipalities a welcome boost in their road budget which benefits everyone. We are in the process of estimating these amounts to gauge the expected impact of that change when it occurs.
• There has been some discussion lately regarding the accounting method employed by the County. While the current cash method complies with the laws of the State of Missouri, the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) prescribes the use of the accrual method. In conversations with counties of similar size, the modified accrual method seems to be the most popular choice. Like the decision to move from 2nd to 1st class, the change in accounting method will require preparation and research to make sure that the transition is as seamless as possible. However, the ultimate determination of the accounting method rests with the County Auditor per RSMo 55.150. The statute goes so far as to state that the Auditor has the authority to make such choices WITHOUT the approval of the Commission. This is another example of the checks and balances that are masterfully interwoven throughout Missouri statutes.

That’s all I have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

Dan Colbert
Presiding Commissioner

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This Week in Lincoln County – June 19, 2018

I have survived my daughter’s wedding and my sons’ graduation. Once I get the election and a graduation/birthday party behind me, perhaps I will be able to relax a bit this summer.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• Taxes. The mere mention of the word puts people (myself included) on edge. This week I want to focus on some tax related questions and hopefully clear up some misconceptions that exist.
• Some weeks ago, I discussed an issue that was being discussed in the State legislature concerning out-of-state purchases and the use tax. The first clarification I want to make is that a use tax is a tax on purchases made outside of one’s state of residence and NOT a tax on the amount of internet service you use. Missouri currently collects a use tax at the rate of 4.225% on out of state purchases, but Lincoln County does not currently have a use tax in place, nor does the Commission have any plans to put this issue on the ballot.
• As stated recently, the Commission voted not to pursue the proposed sales tax to fund 911 Dispatch services throughout the county. While Dispatch funding continues to be a challenge due to decreasing land line numbers, the discussion concerning the proposed tax made it very clear that there was significant opposition to the issue. As caretakers of tax dollars, we have been given a mandate to live within our means and that is exactly what we will continue to do.
• Just a reminder that on April 1, 2019, the Debt Service Tax portion of the Hospital bonds will be retired and the tax will no longer be collected. You will see it on your bill later this year, but it will not be levied in 2019. In an era where new taxes seem to be a frequent topic of conversation, we are bucking that trend and ELIMINATING taxes!
• I would like to share a few words about property tax rates in Lincoln County. Keep in mind that the County sets the rate for the General Revenue (GR) and Road and Bridge (RB) property taxes. All other tax rates are set by the school board, fire board, etc. Our goal has been to keep the levy as low as possible as low property tax rates are a key factor driving the nearly 30% growth in both our residential and commercial tax bases since 2011. Both the GR and RB levies are LOWER now than they were in 2011. General Revenue has experienced a modest decline from .1950 per $100 assessed evaluation in 2011 to .1900 in 2017, while the Road and Bridge rate has declined from .2653 per $100 assessed evaluation to .2421 during that same time period. Keep in mind that, while the rates have dropped slightly, real property values continue to rise with the market which at the moment is very strong. We have to keep the lights on and continue to do business, but we continue to work to keep these rates at or near their current levels without compromising service.

That’s all I have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

Dan Colbert
Presiding Commissioner

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This Week in Lincoln County – June 12, 2018

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• I am sure that everyone who travels Main St. in Troy is aware that the road has been closed for the replacement of the bridge at the intersection of Main and Annie Ave. Having been in the unenviable position of having to close a road for bridge replacement on a number of occasions, I would ask everyone to please be patient throughout the process. Trust me, Mayor Cross and the Board of Aldermen don’t want the closure to last any longer than it has to and are doing everything they can to expedite the process. We can’t lose sight of the fact that PUBLIC SAFETY is the driving force behind this project, and I hope we can all agree that a temporary inconvenience to ensure everyone’s safety is a worthwhile endeavor.
• Preliminary work has been completed and Phase 1 of our 5-year plan to convert gravel roads to hard surface roads is underway. The roads that are included in this year’s program are below along with the length to be surfaced.
o North Chantilly Rd. (.68 miles)
o Blackmore Rd. (.78 miles)
o South Chantilly Rd. (1.3 miles from Brevator to Ethington)
o Kamp Rd. (.51 miles)
o Zoar Church Rd. (1.99 miles)
o Giles Rd. (.65 miles from Highway 47 to Trackside Farm)
o Trackside Farm Rd. (.49 miles)
o Witte Rd. (.76 miles)
o South Moore School Rd. (2.23 miles)
o Linns Mill Rd. (1.6 miles)
o Himmel Rd. (.41 miles)
o Bethel Rd. (1.35 miles from Prairie Rd. north)
o Prairie Rd. (4.58 miles)
o Jacks Rd. (.99 miles)
• We are currently at 150 miles of hard surface road and 330 miles of gravel. At the conclusion of the 5-year plan those figures should be 250 and 230 miles respectively. Replacing rough, dusty gravel roads with a smooth, hard surface not only makes life better for those living on these roads, but it also makes Lincoln County more desirable to potential residents and developers.
• For those of you who travel Hampel Rd. south of Cappel Elementary, you will be delighted to hear that we have entered into an agreement with McClure Engineering to design and oversee the re-decking of the bridge just north of Adelhardt Rd. The project will require a closure, which we hope to execute as soon as school gets out in 2019. In the interim, we will place temporary patch material to get us through to construction.

That’s all I have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

Dan Colbert
Presiding Commissioner

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This week in Lincoln County – May 29, 2018

Road construction is in full swing, so please be extra cautious in your travels, especially in active work zones. Let’s have a safe summer and get everyone to their destinations without incident.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• Today the Commission and the Sheriff entered into an historic Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which formalized our plan to implement a systematic savings plan for Federal Prisoner revenue. While the Federal Prisoner revenues are currently strong, we know all too well that this may not always be the case, and while it may be tempting to increase spending accordingly, this MOU charts a specific course for the saving of revenues above budget projections. The agreement calls for a quarterly reconciliation of actual vs. budgeted Federal Prisoner revenues with the surplus to be distributed as follows: 20% to remain in the Law Enforcement Trust Account; 40% to be placed in the newly created Emergency Fund created specifically for Jail Operations; and 40% into the newly created Retirement Savings Fund. At the end of the year, the parties will reconvene and disburse any unused Transfers from General Revenue to Law Enforcement into any of the above Funds or to the Building Fund which was created last year as a preliminary step to this agreement in an effort to save specifically for future building needs. I refer to this MOU as historic for a couple reasons. First and foremost is that there is no statutory requirement to implement such a systematic plan to save money in County Government. This agreement represents a shared goal of keeping the County on a solid financial foundation. This move is also notable in that it represents teamwork between the Commission and the Sheriff to a degree which is uncommon around the State. While a lot of Counties are embroiled in ongoing feuds over SPENDING money, here in Lincoln County we have united to create a plan for SAVING money.
• Speaking of firm financial foundations, I continue to hear people talk about the “draining of county coffers” to pay “millions and millions” in lawsuits. I hate to rain on the conspiracy parade, but lawsuits are part and parcel of County government, so we therefore spend a great deal of time in the management of these losses through Liability Insurance. Our Liability Insurance covers every liability exposure we have including auto liability, professional liability, and even a portion for cyber liability. Our premium this year is $180,000 and we usually pay under $50,000 per year in deductibles, which amounts to an annual expenditure of less than $250,000, all of which is budgeted and none of which comes from reserves. With over 50 vehicles, 200 employees, 6 facilities, and 480 miles of road, our exposure is widespread, but we continue to work to keep the premiums manageable.
• There will be no update next week as my editor-in-chief is taking some much-deserved time off. We’ll be back in 2 weeks!

That’s all I have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

Dan Colbert
Presiding Commissioner

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This Week in Lincoln County – May 22, 2018

As the summer-type heat has ramped up, so has the workload in the Commissioners’ office. Later in the year we will hopefully be able to look back at recent weeks and take pride in what we were able to accomplish.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• As many of you know, funding for 911 Dispatch has been an ongoing challenge for the County and all entities that utilize the service. The 911 Advisory Board, made up of representatives of all emergency services as well as 3 citizens at large, put in a lot of work researching the issue and ultimately made the recommendation to the Commission that the best long-term solution to the funding issue was a sales tax issue on the April 2019 ballot. The Commission agreed to pursue the recommendation, provided all entities agreed to participate and support the ballot measure. While there was some support expressed, there were also a number of board members throughout the County who were opposed to the issue. Based on this less than whole-hearted support and widespread negative feedback from taxpayers, the Commission voted today against proceeding with placing the proposed sales tax on the ballot. After much deliberation, we could not justify pursuing such an endeavor with such clear opposition. Captain Pirtle and the staff will continue to provide the best service possible within our current budget constraints and life will go on.
• In addition to the easement acquisition issues that I mentioned last week, we continue to watch for the Indiana bat, test for lead paint, and perform a variety of tests and studies as we move forward with our bridge construction projects. Work on Bunker Hill Rd. bridge began last week and Snyder Rd. bridge should get underway very soon as well. Where we go from there depends on the bats I suppose.
• Now that the legislative session has come to a close, I will be reviewing the end of session reports to see what impact the passage or failure of certain bills will have on the County. It looks like prisoner per diem is going to stay at $22.58, which is just over half of our cost to house State prisoners. If you get a chance to speak to a member of the State Legislature, ask them when they plan to implement a fair reimbursement to the Counties for housing the State’s prisoners.

That’s all I have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

Dan Colbert
Presiding Commissioner

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This Week in Lincoln County – May 15, 2018

I hope all of the mothers in Lincoln County had a wonderful Mother’s Day on Sunday. After taking my mother to church, I attended my sons’ TBHS graduation ceremony, and then returned to mother’s where she and I strolled around her yard admiring the peonies and tomato plants. This was a busy but rewarding day.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.

• This Thursday, I will attend the quarterly meeting of the Boonslick Region Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) in Warrenton. I currently serve as vice-chairman of the TAC which is the local transportation planning partner with MODOT, and the TAC provides input to MODOT on transportation needs within the region. The current safety improvement work along Highway 61 is a direct example of a transportation need that progressed from the TAC into the Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP). The safety of commuters along the Highway 61 corridor will continue to be among the Committee’s priorities this year. It is important to keep in mind that until the MODOT funding situation is addressed by our legislators, projects will be focused on the current MODOT system, while projects that involve the expansion of MODOT’s system will be hard pressed to make it into the STIP without significant local contributions. While outer roads along Highway 61 are a logical step in the safety improvement process, they are not going to become a reality without a local groundswell of financial support. The County has expressed a willingness to participate in cost-share projects in the past, but the extensive scope of an outer road system would necessitate significant local financial support from a number of other agencies that have historically been unable to participate. The guard cables are proof of the effectiveness of the planning process, and we will continue to advocate for the folks here in Lincoln County and the Boonslick Region.
• Easement acquisition continues to hinder our progress on bridge projects. We have pinched our pennies to be able to afford to improve the safety in a number of areas, only to be delayed by easement headaches. We are eventually able to work through the process to everyone’s satisfaction, but, as our population continues to grow, I fear that the likelihood of a young driver having a mishap at one of these locations will one day become a sad reality. What dollar value can we place on a human life?

That’s all I have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

Dan Colbert
Presiding Commissioner

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This Week in Lincoln County – May 8, 2018

If you do not share my zeal for the study of mathematics and budgeting, I would suggest you set this week’s update aside because, while it is loaded with valuable, factual information, it is also loaded with numbers. I hope at least a few of you will find it interesting.

County budget statutes are contained in Chapter 50 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri which are available online at the following link http://revisor.mo.gov/main/Home.aspx . While there are hundreds if not thousands of moving parts in the budget, the projected budget, the actual performance, and the history of each can be analyzed with some very basic calculations. How much revenue do we expect? How large of an appropriation do we want to make? What special projects have we been saving for that we are prepared to execute this budget year? These are just some of the considerations in the budget construction. Government should not be in the business of accumulating tax dollars for an unspecified purpose. Rather, our philosophy is that we should provide as much service, etc. as possible to the community while maintaining a healthy reserve balance. Collecting and accumulating tax dollars in a vault somewhere would be a disservice to the people of this County.

To comply with everything in Chapter 50, we craft what I call a “worst case scenario” budget, characterized by conservative estimates of revenue and detailed projections of potential expenditures. It is important to resist the temptation to minimize expenditure to make a budget look good on paper, because the statutes are very strict when it comes to adding to the budget mid-year when you realize that you didn’t make a sufficient allowance for an unexpected high-ticket breakdown such as a rooftop air-conditioning unit. Having the money is not sufficient if you have not budgeted enough of an expense to cover that amount. Some folks like to dwell on projected budgets, but the true measuring stick is the ACTUAL performance. The projected budgets for at least the last 7 years have been characterized by better revenues than expected and expenses coming in significantly under projections which has resulted in a budget surplus each and every year. The lower than expected expenditures can be attributed to the TEAM effort by elected officials, department heads, and all employees to get the most out of your tax dollars.

How do all of these numbers shake out in reality? Since 2011, the General Revenue fund has started each year with an average balance of $2,362,320.81, and based on appropriations during that period, our “untouchable “reserve portion of that was an average of $1,389,194.66. In every year since 2011, our revenues have exceeded expenditures by an average of $570,672.35, creating a budget SURPLUS which has been used to pay-off debt early and maintain reserves. The average reserve balance at the end of the year has been $2,388,899.90, and, as you can see, there has been no draining of reserves, deficit spending, or other financial detriment to the County finances. To the contrary, we have maintained a healthy reserve, managed to save enough to pay cash for future large expenditures, stayed out of debt, and complied with the provisions of Chapter50!

That’s all I have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

Dan Colbert
Presiding Commissioner

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